They are there when life throws you a nasty curve ball: Nurses, with their tidy scrubs, funky gym shoes and ever-present stethoscope wound around their necks.
Janna Ellsworth graduated from nursing school 12 years ago and spent her first year doing home-health care so she could stay home with the first of her three daughters. A year later, she began working on an oncology floor. Six years ago, Ellsworth transferred to the Emergency Department at Chandler Regional Hospital.
“I often think to myself while driving into work, ‘What an incredible job I have,’” Ellsworth said, adding that it is a “privilege and honor” to take care of patients in their most vulnerable state. We get to hold people’s hands that are just scared to die, or provide lifesaving medication to someone that can really help them and bring them back.
“It can be as simple as giving someone a warm blanket or, as I say a hundred times a day, ‘Hi. My name is Janna. I’ll be your nurse today and I’ll be caring for you,’ just to let them know that I am there to help and care for them on their terrible day and that there’s something I can do to make them feel a little bit better.”
The gym shoes, she says, are because on average she walks about 8 miles during a 12-hour shift.
“You’re just moving, moving, moving,” Ellsworth said, to “get down the floor and pick a patient up or put an IV in on your knees.”
“You’ve always got to have a ponytail holder to put your hair up, that’s for sure. You can’t wear hoops in your ears. You have to be strategic with your hair and your nails and your earrings,” she said, chuckling.
There’s no time for a leisurely lunch with co-workers, either. A nurse is lucky to be able to slam down one meal during a 12-hour shift.
As Ellsworth pauses to contemplate her years working in the hospital, many patients she’s cared for come to mind.
“I’ve been a part of these peoples’ stories and whether they remember me or not, I remember them and they stay with me for such a long time,” Ellsworth said. “They will forever impact my life and why I do what I do. It’s because of them.”
There are, of course, heartbreaking moments, too.
“When you have a hard patient and maybe it’s devastating and something happens, we are there to help each other out and we take moments for ourselves and really allow that time to heal and to move on to the next patient,” Ellsworth said. “You’ve got three other patients to take care of. It just really gives me that determination to help other people.”
Ellsworth says she has gained a unique perspective on life due to working in crisis mode.
She’s learned not to sweat the small stuff.
“ER nurses, . . . we’re with people who may not have that next tomorrow,” she said. “So everybody at work has that positive attitude and it’s just a joy to be alive and full of life because of them.”
Ellsworth says she tells her daughters, “It’s no big deal. One of my mottos is NBD—it’s no big deal. What’s a really big deal to most people? I see the really big deals in the ER.”
Working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ellsworth says, was scary at first. She wondered if she might inadvertently take the virus home to her loved ones or if she might get it herself.
“However, as a nurse, especially in the ER, when I walk through those ER doors something would change,” she said. “I felt a sense that I was needed and those fears — that feeling of being needed — was greater than any of my fears and worries. And so those would disappear and I would just go head-on.”